Welcome to Sportico’s Transactions wire, a weekly rundown of personnel, partnerships and purchases across the sports business industry.
Forest Whitaker, Dambisa Moyo Join as Strategic Investors in NBA Africa
NBA Africa announced that Academy Award-winning actor and social activist Forest Whitaker and global economist and New York Times best-selling author Dr. Dambisa Moyo have joined as strategic investors. Whitaker, a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador who may be best known for his portrayal of Ugandan president Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, is the CEO of the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI), a non-profit organization that aims to promote the values of peace, reconciliation and social development within communities that have been impacted by conflict and violence. Moyo, who was born in Zambia, has previously served as a consultant for the World Bank, as a research economist and strategist at Goldman Sachs. NBA Africa, which also added former President Barack Obama as a strategic partner in July, conducts the NBA’s business in Africa, including the Basketball Africa League (BAL), which features the top 12 club teams from 12 African countries and will tip off its second season in March 2022.
XFL Announces Six Football Operations Hires
In advance of its planned 2023 relaunch, the XFL, now led by owners Dany Garcia, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and RedBird Capital, announced six additions to the football operations department. Joining and returning to the league are: Russ Giglio, as senior director of player administration and officiating operations; Jim Monos, as senior director of football operations; Brad Campbell, as senior director of football technology; Bobby Monica, as senior director of equipment operations; CJ Cavazos, as director of college and professional relations; and David Dykeman, as director of football special projects.
Game Taco Names Leif Simonson Vice President of Games
Mobile game maker Game Taco has named veteran game designer Leif Simonson vice president of games. With more than two decades of experience, Simonson is responsible for updating and optimizing the existing Game Taco and WorldWinner portfolios, developing a plan to release at least a dozen new titles in 2022. Previously, Simonson spent two years as lead designer for real money games at Tether Studios, where he implemented designs and project-managed dozens of original esports and real money games, including 21 Blitz Yatzy Royale and One Solitaire.
Golf Channel Names Mark Loomis Senior VP of Production
The GOLF Channel has hired veteran producer Mark Loomis as its senior vice president of production. Loomis will oversee all remote and studio production for GOLF Channel and will report to executive producer Molly Solomon. Loomis will begin in his role at the start of the 2022 calendar year. Loomis most recently served as executive producer of FOX Sports’ golf remote and studio production following a term as executive producer at MLB Network.
Athletes Unlimited Announces New Board Members, Softball Expansion
USA Volleyball star Cassidy Lichtman and former United States Tennis Association chair and president Katrina Adams will be added to the Athletes Unlimited Board of Directors, joining co-founders Jon Patricof, Jonathan Soros and Salil Seshadri. Lichtman and Adams will each serve a one-year term. Lichtman, a Stanford graduate and Team USA member from 2011-16, will serve as the the AU board’s athlete representative, a seat that will be voted on by the players of Athletes Unlimited going forward.
Adams, a Northwestern alum, is a former professional tennis player and was the first former player, first African American and the only individual to serve two consecutive terms as head of the USTA. Athletes Unlimited Softball, meanwhile, is expanding to include a new two-week competition, AUX Softball, which will take place June 13-26, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Title IX on June 23. AUX Softball will feature 42 athletes playing 18 games in a to-be-announced single-city venue.
Visa Becomes First Women’s Football Partner for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup
Visa announced a further expansion of its support of women’s football by becoming the first Women’s Football Partner for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, which will take place in Australia and New Zealand with an expanded field of 32 teams. Visa’s sponsorship complements its global investment in women’s football, including its partnership with UEFA Women’s Football and sponsorship of the U.S. Soccer Federation, including the U.S. Women’s National Team and the SheBelieves Cup.
Charles Schwab Retains Naming Rights to College World Series Stadium
The Charles Schwab Corporation announced its retention of exclusive naming rights to the home of the NCAA Division I Men’s College World Series through 2029, rights obtained from its October 2020 acquisition of TD Ameritrade. Effective in 2022, the 24,000-seat baseball stadium and entertainment complex in downtown Omaha, Neb., will be renamed Charles Schwab Field Omaha.
Charles & Colvard Produces Rings for 2015, 2019 USWNT World Cup Champions
U.S. Soccer announced players and staff from the 2015 and 2019 back-to-back Women’s World Cup champions will receive commemorative championship rings during the upcoming holiday season. U.S. Soccer partnered with Charles & Colvard (Nasdaq: CTHR), a fine jewelry company based in North Carolina, to create the rings and solicited player feedback in the design process. The association said 11 players will receive 2015 rings, 11 will receive 2019 rings, with 12 receiving both.
Chill Brands Group Partners With U.S. Major Arena Soccer League
Chill Brands, the international consumer packaged goods company, announced a partnership with the U.S. Major Arena Soccer League (MASL), offering its CBD products to the league and member teams. The partners will also create the Chill Athlete’s Lab which is designed to explore and implement the use of CBD to help athletes reach their top potential.
New Women’s Developmental Golf Tour Concentrates Events in Eastern U.S.
The East Coast Women’s Professional Golf Tour (ECWPGT), a new women’s developmental golf tour, will launch with a Winter Series, beginning Jan. 17 in Orlando and followed by its summer schedule in May with events in the eastern third of the U.S., hoping to deliver a more economically viable pathway for women in this part of the country, where no professional events at this level currently exist.